14 March 2014

Imprint Friday: The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

The Colour of Milk by Nell LeyshonWelcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

I don't know how I missed Nell Leyshon's The Colour of Milk last year, especially because it was an Indie Next pick for January 2013. Leyshon's probably best know as a dramatist, but her fiction has garnered much acclaim. When The Colour of Milk was released in paperback this winter, I made sure to read it.

Before I tell you what I thought, here's the publisher's summary:

Set in England in 1830, The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon is an emotionally haunting work of historical fiction--hailed as "charming, Bronte-esque . . . and hard to forget" (Marian Keyes)--about an illiterate farm girl's emotional and intellectual awakening and its devastating consequences.

Mary, the spirited youngest daughter of an angry, violent man, is sent to work for the local vicar and his invalid wife. Her strange new surroundings offer unsettling challenges, including the vicar's lecherous son and a manipulative fellow servant. But life in the vicarage also offers unexpected joys, as the curious young girl learns to read and write--knowledge that will come at a tragic price.
The story belongs to fifteen-year-old Mary, who tells us about the year she was sent away to work for the local vicar. She divides her tale into seasons, beginning each part by reiterating, "this is my book and i am writing it by my own hand. . . . and my hair is the colour of milk."

The first thing I have to comment on is the lack of capital letters and quotation marks in the novel. To be honest, I was initially thrown off, but after about three dozen pages I was so taken by Mary's spunk and straightforward nature, despite her difficult life, that I had to keep reading. I came to accept that the words were indeed as Mary would have written them, and the odd punctuation became part of the experience. Besides, I wanted to know, What was so important that she had "promised my self i would write the truth and the things that happened"?

Leyshon's novel is beautifully written, almost lyrical in its pacing. And Mary is so clearly rendered--with her bum leg, burning curiosity, and head-on approach to life--that you want to protect her, warning her of what life off the family farm could be like. You feel her frustration at having no control over her destiny: she must do as her mother says, her father says, the vicar says. When she finally feels her own power, she does the only thing she can think of. I don't blame her, and I don't think you will either.

Want to learn more? In the following seven-minute interview with Sandeep Mahal from Fiction Uncovered, Nell Leyshon talks about The Colour Milk.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, January 2014 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9780062192066


(Diane) bookchickdi 3/14/14, 7:42 AM  

I missed this one too, it sounds intriguing.

bermudaonion 3/14/14, 8:01 AM  

This does sound good! I wonder if I could adjust to the lack of capital letters and quotation marks.

Karen White 3/14/14, 8:20 AM  

Intrigued! I love the quote - just that little bit gives me a picture of Mary and her budding writer self.

JoAnn 3/14/14, 8:30 AM  

I'm sure the lack of capital letters and quotation marks would put me off initially, too, but this sounds like a good book!

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